We spend a lot of this trip exploring some of the landscapes of the Comoros on foot, and we take care to stick to the trails and not to damage any of the flora, as some parts of the region are quite a fragile environment. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, which includes the drivers. The Comoros Islands are home to rare and endemic wildlife, and it is particularly important these are protected.
At Itsamia, we watch turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. We ensure that our presence here does not disturb these animals, and only approach once they have started laying, rather than being on the beach when they land, potentially discouraging them from laying eggs. We limit our time with the turtles so as not to cause unnecessary distress.
Similarly, at Wallah we are careful not to disturb the Livingstone's fruit bats - this is a vulnerable species found nowhere else.
The Comoros Islands are one of the least visited countries in the world and western European norms regarding the environment are not so well entrenched, therefore it is quite common for local people to dispose of rubbish simply by throwing it out of the window. We work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.
Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – again in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off – small things but as the country is still really in the early stages of dealing with tourism we hope that they can become ingrained into the culture.
On all of our tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers of tourism having the capacity to make a positive impact on the places visited. We stay at locally-owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’.
We try to employ the services of local guides, from the areas that we visit; not only are they able to offer greater insights and a more intimate connection with the place, but this helps to ensure that some of the income generated by our visit filters back to local communities rather than just being funnelled to centralised institutions. This also helps to show local communities that there is a financial benefit for them in preserving the natural environment.
Some of the areas that we visit are quite traditional with certain codes of behaviour, and the people here are not that accustomed to outsiders. We ensure that our travellers are appropriately briefed in order so as not to offend local sensibilities.
We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travellers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country. Through carefully supervised tourism, greater worth is placed upon the rich heritage of the Comoros and it is hoped that local authorities will not only have the funds but also recognise the value in restoring and preserving such places.
Where possible we encourage our travellers to spend their money with local businesses; for this reason we do not include meals where it is feasible to eat outside of the hotels, in order that local restaurants are able to benefit from the presence of tourism, rather than the income being channelled just to the hotel.